Newmarket senior Pam Blackert said she wanted to try out a new sport that she could do despite an injured wrist.
The former tennis player said she was attracted to pickleball, a sport growing in popularity with many older players.
When she heard the York Curling Club was opening up courts — in the indoor setting she preferred — she decided to try it out.
“Love it,” she said. “You learn something every time ... Just exercise and meeting nice people.”
The York Curling Club has turned its ice into courts for the first time this summer, launching the initiative mid-May. The club plans to have the courts open all summer, until curling season resumes, with dozens of players already using them regularly.
Club manager Jack Inouye said the idea got discussed mid-curling season and an internal survey garnered enough response. He said the club decided to invest about $3,000 to get the courts up and running and it is seeing early success.
“We’ve got around 85 people registered through the York Pickleball Club,” he said. “We’re doing OK. It’s picking up. Every day we’re getting new people signing up, and it’s getting to the point, last night, we had six courts full.”
Newmarket has a dedicated local pickleball scene, with local sports organization Elevation Athletics getting 225 players in a summer league last year. Elevation Athletics is also renting out the courts.
Elevation Athletics owner Justin Mitchell said he is happy the club decided to put into the courts.
"It's like a small, hidden, pickleball utopia that nobody knows about yet," he said. "We're hoping we can spread the word."
Some local players have been seeking more court space, with six outdoor courts dedicated to the game at Quaker Park and six temporary ones at Joe Pereschini Park split with tennis. The town also has its own pickleball program.
Mitchell said there is not enough out there for the local scene and they hope to set up some arrangements with schools to play indoors during the winter months.
"I'm hoping outdoor courts get nicely furnished or done better," he said. "Or there's more indoor availability in the evening times."
Inouye said they are hoping to provide another option that can also work during inclement weather in the summer. He said they are promoting their courts for rainy days.
“It’s sort of an experimental year, and we’ll see how it goes,” he said. “With the way it’s picking up now, and I think with the interest, it’s generating, it’s something we’ll continue annually.”
The decision is inspiring curlers to pick up the paddle for pickleball for the first time, including Inouye himself.
“It’s not a hard sport to pick up, and I think that’s why pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports,” he said. “They enjoy the opportunity to get out and play.”
Curler Aniko Just said it is a new way for them to keep active in the summer.
“But also support the club, too,” she said. “It’s really fun. It’s a good way to connect with friends because normally, we don’t see them through the summer.”
“From May to December, (the facility) just sat empty,” curler Brain Kesler said, adding he thinks it’s a great choice. “A little more revenue, keeping people active. I think pickleball is a great sport, particularly as you get older.”
Inouye said the club expected approximately $30,000 to $40,000 in revenue this year from pickleball. He also said he hopes some of the pickleball players might give curling a shot, needed with the club taking an approximately 30 per cent hit in membership over the pandemic.
Burke said she plans to do curling come winter, using a pusher stick to help get into the sport.
But for now, she will be playing pickleball this summer and getting exercise the way she prefers: playing games.
“Anybody should try it,” she said. “The exercise is incredible.”
You can register here.